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Terumah: Giving

Building a Temple by Laya Crust

This week’s blog is in memory of my mother, Dorothy Crust. Devorah bat Mordechai haCohen v’Rachel Leah was a woman imbued with beauty, wisdom, intelligence, and love of Judaism. This week’s parashah deals with building a home for God and introduces the concept of giving with an open heart. My mother z”l gave with an open heart and strengthened the community around her. Her memory is a blessing.

This week’s parashah is called “Terumah”, which means an offering, denoting something set apart as a donation. God says, “Tell the Israelite people to bring Me contributions; you shall accept contributions for Me from every person whose heart so moves him” (Exodus 25:2). The wording is precise, “אשר ידבנו ולבּו”. “Those with a willing heart” are invited to contribute to the building of this important sanctuary. The building materials are to be given with generosity and joy rather than coercion or compulsion (like taxes and levies.)

Up until now, the Children of Israel have been entirely dependent. They were slaves in Egypt, and they did nothing for themselves in the desert. They were given manna, water, and led each step of the way. Finally, the Children of Israel are invited to do something for themselves and God. They step up to contribute energy, creativity, and materials to create a community hub.

In a functioning society, people are responsible for themselves and others. They must come forward to help things run smoothly. People give when they feel they have enough for themselves and enough to share. Whether helping with small tasks or major undertakings the contributor is empowered to share. When giving or sharing, you are forging a link with the person receiving. The recipient, in turn, is strengthened and can give to others.

When God asks B’nei Yisrael to build the Mishkan, He invites them to become partners with Him. God says, “And let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם׃ (Exodus 25:8). The words “shikhanti” (I will dwell), “Mishkan,” and “shekhinah” (Divine Presence) all come from the same root word, which is found in the Hebrew words for neighbour, neighbourhood, and dwell. God wants to be a constant presence among the people and knows that human beings need visual reminders and beauty to awaken a joyful soul. “Neighbour” is in the word for God’s holy dwelling, and “neighbour” describes God’s Presence.

The bottom line of God’s message is, “Be involved. Don’t be a spectator.”

In this parashah we see the emergence of a group that is growing into a cohesive community. They will combine their materials and skills to make a mishkan, a sanctuary. God does not live in a building, but rather in the hearts of the builders. As He said, “Let them make Me a Sanctuary that I may dwell among them” (Ex. 25:8).

Have a Shabbat Shalom, Laya

P.S. The painting at the top is based on a ketubah from 1853 Istanbul, Turkey. It shows boats floating on the Bosphorous River. If you want to enlarge the image at the top of the ketubah below, you can click on them.

istanbul ketubah02

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It’s the Three Weeks – of War

Hesped 0036


Isaiah I: 1- 27

Isaiah (prophet)- c.740 – 685 BCE

This painting was created in response to the senseless killing of innocent Israeli soldiers on leave a few years ago. Called “Hesped” (Eulogy) it is King David’s eulogy over King Saul and Jonathan. Two psalms are written in the top corners. The writing was done in  23K gold leaf to represent the pain of loss, like fire on fire. Click on the painting to enlarge it.

This haftarah always precedes the fast of Tisha B’Av  (the 9th of Av). It is a desolate haftarah where Isaiah recounts how God laments that His children – B’nei Yisrael – have rebelled against Him. They are corrupt, their prayers are empty and their sacrifices are meaningless.

The haftarah is bleak, expressing Gd’s disappointment in His people and longing for them to improve. Gd and Isaiah are begging the children of Israel to improve their behaviour. Gd asks Israel to “Learn to do well; Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1: 17)

Right now we are nearing the end of the “Three Weeks” which is a period of mourning and reflection that occurs between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av.   It is a time of solemnity and is used to reflect on our behaviour. Can we perform a good deed and help another person? Can we cut back on- or even stop- our gossiping? What can we do to improve ourselves and the world around us?

It is a strange coincidence- or is it- that this year Israel is engaged in Operation Protective Edge. It is a defensive battle against the terrorist organization Hamas during these three weeks of mourning. Precious lives have been lost, but the battle must go on until the secret tunnels from Gaza to Israel are eradicated, the enemy weapons caches are destroyed, and the citizens of Israel can sleep at night without suffering continued rocket attacks from Gaza.

Photo Photo  (Photos from Ohel Arl Community, organized by Rachel Jacoby, Erica Jacoby, Nicole Azulay)

The people in Israel and Israel’s supporters are trying to do just what Gd called for. We are looking for ways to help. We are thinking of the young soldiers on the fronts lines who are protecting Israelis and trying to spare innocent civilians in Gaza.  We are thinking of Israeli families traumatized by death and destruction of their homes and communities. We are thinking of the extra burden on the health system and front line care workers.

Beautifully, love and  energy and resources have been mobilized to send support, prayers, and good deeds to help win the war- not only by might but by faith and “mitzvoth”.

If you want to help you can donate to one of many organizations that are on the ground assisting those affected by the conflict. Magen David Adom, Leket, Yad Sarah, UJA, Soroka Hospital, Beit HaLochem Canada, One Family, are just a few. If you don’t want to send money, send prayers. It’s all good.

We hope to win the war with as little bloodshed as possible so we can live in our land in peace. May it be soon. Amen

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